Genesis is one of my favorite books of the Bible, and its description of our life in paradise is certainly one of the reasons. Humanity has been plagued since that time by its sense of loss and emptiness and driven by the resulting desire to fill that void and either regain or recreate the paradise we were created to inhabit. Most especially, this has centered around restoring our loneliness. Our separation from God, from one another, and from creation is not natural to the human condition and our psychological and sociological constitutions have maladapted to this isolation, resulting in all kinds of physical, mental, and communal ills.
It is to end this separation – and heal the illnesses that have risen up around it – that led God to send His Only-Begotten Son and His Holy Spirit into the world. This is the purpose of Holy Orthodoxy.
But not everyone wants this healing. They prefer to continue filling the void, covering the symptoms, and bridging the separations on their own. A modern manifestation of this desire is transhumanism. While it has some useful elements, the agenda that drives the movement is to use technology to do those things that God Himself is doing through His Church, but that it’s high priests have rejected. When it is used in this way, it becomes an anti-Christ. Here are some examples:
- The Unity of Mankind. God desires that we all become one as He (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is one. We draw closer to one another through Holy Communion and kenotic (self-emptying, other-focused) love. Thus, as we are perfected as persons, we are drawn closer to all those who are similarly being perfected. The technological alternative brings us closer together (think social media like Facebook), but without first requiring that we become holy. These closer connections thus draw us deeper into the psychoses and sociopathes of our fallen humanity. This will grow worse as the technology becomes more immersive.
- The Unity of Mankind with God. Orthodoxy is designed to allow us to grow in perfection; to paraphrase Athenasius, “God become man so that men could become as gods”. There is no doubt that we are growing in power and knowledge (we have constant access to the Google Brain!), but we are doing so without holiness, without humility, and without a healthy agenda to guide us. We are simply going faster and more powerfully into the hell of our own making.
- Eternal Life. Simple medical advances have increased the average lifespan and promise to continue this increase for quite a while. Scientists believe that we may eventually reach a hard limit of around 120 years as long as we constrain ourselves to common flesh, bones, and brain. But transhumanists see no need for such constraint (hence their moniker) and look to use genetic engineering, nanotechnology, machine parts (cyborg technology), and the uploading of minds into more durable matrices in order to extend life indefinitely. Again, without first achieving holiness, longer life is not worth living. God made repentance and perfection a condition for eternal life for a reason. He shortened our lives after the fall for a reason. Without those things, immortal, transhuman men will become as the disembodied souls of the nephalim, wandering the earth continually in hope of finding a body to control… suffering from our prideful wickedness until the final day of judgment.
There is nothing new under the sun. Transhumanism uses new technologies, but the desire to fix everything on our own is as old as pride itself. This is just our newest Tower of Babel, our newest altar to Baal and Meloch. Those attempts did not end well, and neither will this one. The only good end is the one God has designed for us. So repent. Love God. Worship Him. Love your neighbor. Serve him. Embrace the Orthodox Way – and through this, obtain blessed immortality and the restoration of paradise.
Priests have to keep up with such things so that we can help people understand their spiritual ramifications. But it isn’t just a matter of evaluating the repercussions of individual technologies (although this certainly is part of our calling and we need to do better at this, mostly by relying on pious lay theologians who have mastered the science and developed an Orthodox mind!) but also of evaluating the culture technologists are trying to create. There are parts of the transhumanist community that are benign; they are working to develop medicines and the like that will improve our quality of life without redefining it. However, the general thrust is explicitly anti-theistic and anti-Christian (see the Kurzweil quote above) and really does offer a new anthropology. They are not using the words of technological transformation as metaphors for Christian theosis and communion (as a charitable reading of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin has him doing with evolutionary anthropology), but in order to share a new gospel of hope and transformation. Such a gospel will find no resonance with those who know that real hope comes from Jesus Christ. That makes our job as parish priests much easier: preaching the true Gospel is our primary competence. God strengthen us as we proclaim His Word!